UNICEF Zim In Major COVID-19 & Immunization Cold Chain Donation

THE Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) today received a consignment consisting of 968 solar direct driven refrigeration towards Zimbabwe’s expanded program on immunization and 134 Oxygen Concentrators in support of Zimbabwe’s fight against COVID-19.

By Michael Gwarisa

The delivery is part of the Health Development Fund (HDF) that is managed by UNECEF while the 968 solar direct refrigerators were procured by GAVI at a tune of US$3, 444, 828.15 Million. The HDF is funded by the United Kingdom DFID, European Union (EU), Irish Aid, and the Global Vaccines Alliance (GAVI).

Officiating at the handover ceremony in Harare, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr John Mangwiro said the gesture was very significant in strengthening the country’s health system and would improve the quality and capacity of the cold chain under the Zimbabwe Expanded Program on Immunization (ZEPI).

The expanded program on Immunization is the arm of government responsible for preventing morbidity and mortality from vaccine preventable diseases in the country. The programme requires, among other things, continuous investments in cold chain equipment and capacity building at all levels of the healthy delivery system to maintain the potency of vaccines supply chain.

“In this regard, the arrival of this equipment is a timely and significant boost to Zimbabwe’s continued efforts to reach every child and eligible adult with potent lifesaving vaccines in all corners of the country,” said Dr Mangwiro.

He added that the decision to procure the equipment was arrived at after the country had conducted a cold chain assessment in 2015, which culminated in the development of a five- year cold chain replacement, rehabilitation and expansion plan.

“Coincidentally, GAVI opened a window called Cold Chain equipment Optimization Platform (CCEOP) to support countries in rehabilitation of their cold chain equipment management systems. Zimbabwe then successfully applied for support through this window.”

The 968 refrigerators Zimbabwe received are powered by solar energy and solar direct drive (SDD). The new technology according to Dr Mangwiro will reduce operational costs related to electricity and LP gas consumption.

“The technology eliminates the challenges posed by frequent and prolonged power outages. This means our health centers are now assured of reliable cold chain equipment in line with our focus on equity in access to quality health services.

“To date, 300 out of more than 1700 service delivery facilities in the country have benefited from the SSD refrigerators. After deployment of these additional 968 units, the country still has a deficit of 450 centers which will need the same intervention,” said Dr Mangwiro.

Speaking on the 134 Oxygen concentrators, Dr Mangwiro said the equipment will increase capacity of hospitals to treat moderate to severe COVID-19 patients. He added that the arrival of the oxygen concentrators will also translate into an increase in the number of beds available for treatment of this category of COVID-19 patients current 45 beds to 179, bringing this close to 80 percent of required beds for this category in the country.

He added that an extra six units were delayed from getting into the country due to freight capacity but are expected into the country anytime soon.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Zimbabwe Acting Representative Amina Mohamed said the equipment will go a long way in ensuring access to quality healthcare for all Zimbabweans, particularly during these challenging times where we are fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The times we are in are truly unprecedented. Never before have we been faced with such a calamitous global event such as we are in now. Zimbabwe has not been spared. In the last few weeks we have seen a sudden spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases. We should therefore ramp up our efforts in the collective fight to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“I would like to commend the government of Zimbabwe’s leadership in guiding the National COVID-19 Response Plan. As UNICEF, we are strongly behind you in these efforts. UNICEF continues to coordinate with government with a focus on coordination, Case Management, Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE), Procurement and Logistics, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), continuity of essential services, and some interventions at the ports of entry,” said Mohamed.

She added that the 134 Oxygen Concentrators which were handed over comes at a right the country is witnessing a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

“It is important that we are prepared to provide optimum care to those patients who may be hospitalised with mild or severe cases of the infection. The High Dependency UNIT (HDU) capacity that is being created with the arrival of these machines is the one aspect of COVID-19 Case Management that is likely to save the largest number of lives amongst those COVID-19 patients who will need hospital care.”

She also expressed gratitude to GAVI for procuring the e Solar Direct Driven Refrigerators (SDD) from which she says will be a game changer in the cold chain supply system.

“The provision of Solar Direct Driven refrigerators will improve vaccine supply in the hardest to reach primary health facilities around the country, thereby reducing missed immunisation opportunities.

“The recent deterioration in power supply in Zimbabwe has resulted in more than 12 hours, or in some cases days without electricity, exposing the vaccines to heat and risking their potency. These refrigerators will provide a green solution to such challenges, ensuring that the Expanded Programme on Immunization reaches “the last mile.”

Mohamed also added that even though the national focus is currently on the COVID-19 response, there is still a critical need to ensure continuity of routine maternal, newborn and child health care services like immunisation.

“Any decrease in vaccination coverage could potentially lead to other disease outbreaks, such as Measles, and likewise otherwise preventable child deaths.”

 

 

 

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